The Buzz: Fireside Inn’s half-million-dollar makeover

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Fireside Inn & Suites General Manager Richard “Bud” Nelson sits on a bed in a nearly remodeled room at the Auburn hotel Wednesday afternoon. The room was one of 42 gutted and renovated as part of a $500,000 project by new owners. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

This week, the Buzz is bringing on the new.

First up: It took the new owners of the Fireside Inn & Suites in Auburn three days to start swinging hammers, pulling up rugs and packing up old beds.

General Manager Richard “Bud” Nelson said New England Hospitality, based in East Kingston, New Hampshire, closed on the sale of the hotel at 1777 Washington St. in Auburn on Feb. 23.

“On the 26th of February, there were people all over the place tearing apart the main wing and (now) we’re just about ready to go live with some new rooms next week,” he said.

They’ve gutted 42 of 100 rooms in a $500,000 project that represents phase 1. Phase 2 will pick up in the fall.

Expect new beds, linens, sinks, TVs, rugs, the works, Nelson said.

“The area of Lewiston-Auburn is a thriving community that has a lot going on in business, businesses either coming here or expanding, and the Fireside just wants to be part of the growing economy,” he said. “They’re going to be wowed, especially if they haven’t been here before. For anybody who was here, it’s day and night.”

The hotel’s restaurant and lounge closed a year ago. Over the summer, management will assess whether to reopen both or bring someone in to run them, Nelson said. He hopes to see them back open by fall.

The purchase is New England Hospitality’s first in Maine. The company also owns three properties in New Hampshire and one in Massachusetts.

“The location was unbeatable” with so much traffic, Nelson said. (The hotel sits feet from Exit 75 on the Maine Turnpike.)

Nelson is not new to the hospitality scene: He was formerly in management at the Ramada Inn in Lewiston for 35 years.

New bag

Mark Rodrigue models Rogue Wear’s new Hybrid Backpack, one of six products featured next month during Maine International Trade Center’s New Product Global Showcase. (Submitted photo)

Rogue Wear’s Hybrid Backpack was on display at the Maine International Trade Center’s New Product Global Showcase sneak peek Tuesday. The center’s official Trade Day 2018 is scheduled for May 18 when six Maine companies will show off inventions they hope will increase international sales.

“It went very well,” said Mark Rodrigue, who owns both Rogue Wear and Maine Awards in Lewiston. “I think everybody kind of makes the comment, ‘Oh, that makes sense.'”

He’s designed the Hybrid — it’s a backpack meets a duffel — with side-entry pockets, a laptop sleeve, space for toiletries and a separate compartment for shoes so they don’t touch clothes.

“It’s not for hiking Kilimanjaro or Everest, but it works really well for an everyday carry, whether you’re going away for the weekend or a week or just a trip to the gym,” Rodrigue said.

New service

A new grocery shopping service is in town.

Last week, Instacart rolled out in greater Lewiston-Auburn and 21 other markets. The service works off an app that allows people to remotely shop at local stores — in this area, for now, that’s Shaw’s, BJ’s Wholesale Club, CVS and Petco — pay with their phones and have the order delivered within an hour, two hours or days later.

Some stores charge more for their goods via app than they do in person. Walker Dieckmann, Instacart’s general manager in the Northeast, said that’s noted in the app.

There are flat fees related to delivery. For example, $5.99 for an order arriving in two hours. At the virtual checkout, there’s also a 5 percent service fee going to the company and an option to tip your driver.

Instacart is based in San Francisco and is in 240 markets across the country. It launched in Portland in December 2017.

The company expects to have up to 100 local shopper/drivers, but Dieckmann wasn’t able to say how many it has at startup. They’ll be identifiable in local grocery aisles by the green lanyards around their necks, according to Dieckmann.

New eats

One of Auburn-based Cheating Gourmet’s newest dishes is a cilantro lime shrimp and rice bowl. (Submitted photo)

With their Auburn-based Cheating Gourmet frozen food brand, brothers Scott and Jon Demers have entered the seafood appetizer market, tackled low-fat hamburgers and now, they’ve added shrimp and rice bowls to their brand.

According to a story on ProjectNosh.com, the brothers raised more than $2 million earlier this month with goals of tripling the company’s distribution and growing its sales team.

The Demerses remain the majority owners of the company.

“You look at the category and there was nothing in there that brought a new life or that was innovative or spoke to today’s consumers,” Scott Demers said on the website. “So the secret success here is a healthy item that is also super convenient. Bringing those two together has been a magic formula for us.”

The new shrimp bowls are available locally at Shaw’s, according to Cheating Gourmet.

Quick hits about business comings, goings and happenings. Have a Buzzable tip? Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at 689-2844 or [email protected]

This story was updated Thursday at 12:39 p.m.

 

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